2019 Golden Lock Awards

2019 Golden Lock Award Ribbon

We played and reviewed 161 escape rooms in 2019.

Our own playing slowed a bit this year as we worked to grow the community from other angles: reviewing more at-home escape games, running two different Escape Immerse Explore tours, and launching the Reality Escape Convention (RECON) which will take place in Boston in 2020.

When we traveled, we actively sought out the most interesting and unusual games. We raised the bar for the games we chose to play.

We tapped into the community and sought escape rooms that refined the traditional notion of escape rooms or pushed the industry in a new direction.

As “wry cheerleaders, critics, and ambassadors of the escape room world” (Rachel Sugar, Vox, 2019) we want to share the stories of people, companies, and games that are driving this frontier of the experience economy.

Changes

For our fifth annual Golden Lock Award, we’ve made a few changes to the award:

New Name

We decided to drop the wordplay of “Golden Lock-In” after the fire in Poland. Locking players inside of an escape room hasn’t been acceptable for a long time. While our 2019 Escape Room Safety Report demonstrates that locked doors are a thing of the past, we didn’t want this award to encourage it in any way.

Rules

We’ve changed, and so has the industry. We added a rule about safety and dropped a rule that both of us had to play each contending game:

  1. We established no arbitrary minimum or maximum number of rooms that could win the award.
  2. A company could only win once for the year.
  3. We had published a safety rubric at the start of 2019. To be considered, a room had to achieve a safety rating of A or A+ for both emergency exits and physical restraints.
  4. We (either of us) had to play the room during 2019.

There is no such thing as the perfect escape room, but these are the ones that we wish we could play again. Here are our 16 favorite escape rooms of 2019.

2019 Golden Lock Winners

Here is the recording of the awards show livestream.

Listed chronologically in the order that we played them:

The Legend of the Skull Witch

Enchambered – Sacramento, California

In-game: an effigy hanging from the wall with fire projected onto it.

From its imposing opening scene, through each moment of exploration, there was something intriguing – and a bit unsettling – about The Legend of the Skull Witch. Enchambered built creative mechanisms that made the world that much more magical… and the solving that much more heroic.

Castle Adventure

Escape Room Family – Cincinnati, Ohio

In-game: An assortment of puzzles and armaments in Defend The Castle.

The magic of Castle Adventure came from the gameplay and puzzles, set in bright and friendly containers. With a specific audience in mind, Escape Room Family invested in the right details, upping the energy level and the fun factor. It might not have looked like much, but it had it where it counted.

The Night of the Wolf and the Serpent

Codex – Laval, Quebec, Canada

In-game: A campfire burning under the stars in the middle of the autumn woods.

In our first adventure through Norse mythology, Codex crafted a lovingly homemade aesthetic with exquisite polish, delivering a historic land like no other. The Night of the Wolf and the Serpent had us solving our way through a story right up until we sealed our destiny.

The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa

Escaparium – Dorval, Quebec, Canada

In-game: Bottles of magical ingredients.

Escaparium bestowed magical powers upon us and set us off on a quest to battle a mythical beast. Through an unusual set and tech, The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa fostered teamwork and moments of individual heroism.

Wrath of Poseidon

Sauve Qui Peut – Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

In-game: A periscope in a submarine.

What began as a cliché aboard a submarine opened up into a spectacularly vibrant second act. Wrath of Poseidon carried a subtle message, made all the more memorable by Sauve Qui Peut’s breathtaking style and craftsmanship.

The End

DarkPark – Zoetermeer, Netherlands

In-game: a rundown scifi-esque wall-mounted logo that reads "END"

DarkPark’s newest experience was a twisted thriller about endings… in so many different ways. The End was about its story, a futuristic cautionary tale that delivered an unimaginably epic conclusion.

The Dome

Escape Room Nederland – Bunschoten-Spakenburg, Netherlands

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".

With unrivaled set design and technology, The Dome led us through a series of hallucinations, administered without any chemicals and entirely through Escape Room Nederland’s commitment to their craft. With each mind-boggling transition we were that much more amazed that this escape room even exists.

Neptune’s Curse

Hidden in Hamburg – Hamburg, Germany

In-game: A wooden ship's comaptment with unusual crates and storage containers built into the walls.

Hidden in Hamburg built their seafaring adventure into a real ship. As we traversed the decks of this actually floating escape game, we experienced puzzles that could only work in the unusual environment of Neptune’s Curse.

Below Zero

Crypto Escape Rooms – Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

In-game: Wide angle shot of a control room.

Crypto Escape Rooms crafted a fully realized narrative and puzzles that were as integrated into the story as they were fun to solve. With a blend of compelling storytelling and dark humor, Below Zero will thaw the heart of the most jaded escape room player.

The Aurora Society

Decode Ypsilanti – Ypsilanti, Michigan

In-game: wide shot of the room, a strange game sits on a table in the middle of the room.

Every prop, puzzle, and inch of the beautiful world of The Aurora Society was justified and came together to tell our story of harnessing the magical properties of the aurora borealis. Decode Ypsilanti created a cohesive world from the front door through every inch of their facility and our experience in it.

The Infirmary

Michigan Escape Room – Clinton Township, Michigan

In-game: A wide shot of the Infirmary. It's heavily weathered and worn.

With an intense and eerie set, The Infirmary was a shining example of a classic escape room. Michigan Escape Room added novel interactions to stellar, traditional gameplay, reminding us of why we fell in love with these types of games in the first place.

Plight of the Margo Part 1 & Part 2

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms – Fort Collins, Colorado

In-game: The ships helm beside and iris door.

The Plight of the Margo was an epic Star Trek-inspired mission in two consecutive 90-minute installments. ConTRAPtions used the extended clock to build an intense story within an impressively engineered starship.

ConTRAPtions is for sale, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their product. They have a special game and we want it to find a good home. If you are interested in buying ConTRAPtions, please reach out to them directly.

The Last Defender

Denver, Colorado

We played The Last Defender in Denver, but it was originally launched in Chicago and is currently running again in Chicago.

In-game: 3 players in orange flightsuits working at the Operations cabinet.
Image via The Last Defender

The Last Defender was a dark political comedy exploring cold war nuclear deterrents. For 16 players, it blurred the lines between escape room, theater, and puzzle hunt, presenting equal doses of challenging puzzles and thought-provoking moments that balanced on the razor’s edge between tragedy and comedy.

Paradox

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services – Louisville, Colorado

In-game: 4 tubes protruding upwards from a glowing console.

If Doctor Who’s Tardis and The Room game series had a baby, it would look like Paradox. Rabbit Hole Recreation Services created a monument to tangible gameplay delivering puzzle after puzzle with unusual and engaging interfaces.

Captain Spoopy Bones And The Magnificent Quest For Some Other Pirate’s Treasure

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Kissimmee, Florida

In-game: the brig inside of a wooden ship.

We laughed our way through Captain Spoopy Bones And The Magnificent Quest For Some Other Pirate’s Treasure. Doldrick’s Escape Room uses their unique voice to build fully realized worlds. We were giddy accomplices in Captain Spoopy Bones’ tale. Through 75 minutes of tight gameplay and stellar reveals, they made us feel like kids again.

The Storyteller’s Secret

Boxaroo – Boston, Massachusetts

In-game: A beautiful old writer's desk with a journal and a quill pen.

The Storyteller’s Secret was a serene adventure through the mind of a novelist. Boxaroo’s escape room wasn’t just built; it was thoroughly designed, delivering gameplay reminiscent of classic LucasArts games.

Congratulations to the 2019 Golden Lock Winners!

Past Golden Lock Awards

Announcing Escape Immerse Explore: The Hayden Farm 2020

We are excited to officially announce our 2nd tour for 2020!

For Room Escape Artist’s 5th escape room tour, we’re doing something a little different – a small scale, 1-day event in our home market of NY/ NJ to visit one of our favorite companies… that happens to be a challenge to get to.

Escape Immerse Explore: The Hayden Farm 2020

13th Hour Escape Rooms has become northern New Jersey’s most consistently high-quality escape room company. They are a two-time Golden Lock Award winner (2017 & 2018).

Their escape rooms are all set in the whimsically murderous Hayden Family farm. The facility itself is fully themed against this backdrop. They build challenging, puzzley games in their grimly beautiful environment.

The Haydens are kind of horror, kind of funny, and very charming. We liken 13th Hour’s games to Tim Burton’s work (but with a lot less red, black, and white… and no Johnny Depp).

Date

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Location

13th Hour Escape Rooms, Wharton, New Jersey

Featured Games

You will get to play 4 of the following 5 games:

Buy Now

Early Bird – $349 – Available until Friday, January 31, 2020 at midnight EST (while supplies last; Montreal sold out quickly)

Regular – $399

No matter when you buy your ticket, you will play in teams of 4-6 players.

Buy your ticket this month for the early bird price!

Additional Information

13th Hour Escape Rooms is consistently a favorite among locals and visitors who can make the journey to Wharton, New Jersey.

We love their stuff… and we know a lot of folks in NYC (locals & visitors) can’t figure out how to make a trip to 13th Hour logistically viable. We figured we’d solve this problem by throwing a bus at it.

We will run a bus from a location in Manhattan to 13th Hour Escape Rooms. The bus will pick you up in the morning and drop you off at the end of the day.

During this 1-day tour, you’ll play 4 escape rooms, eat a meal, listen to a talk, and hang out with other escape room enthusiasts.

Learn More

We have written up the details of the tour and answered all manner of questions that are on your mind… and some that aren’t.

Learn more about Escape Immerse Explore: The Hayden Farm 2020.

If the link above doesn’t answer all your questions, please contact us.

SOLD OUT – Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020… and News!

Sold Out

Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020 is SOLD OUT.

This is our Grand Tour for 2020 and it’s our biggest tour yet with 57 explorers journeying to Montreal.

If you are interested in attending, please contact us to be added to the waitlist. We have an amazing group of people joining us.

Escape Immerse Explore logo in red and white, abstractly mimicking the Canadian flag.

Coming Soon

We will soon announce a second Escape Immerse Explore tour for 2020.

This will be a smaller scale tour, taking place in the United States.

Watch this website for details… coming very soon!

How to Tune in to the 2019 Golden Lock Award Livestream

We invite you to tune in for the 5th Annual Golden Lock Award Livestream on January 4, 2020.

Livestream Link

Golden Lock Livestream

Stylized image of a stream running through a canyon.

Key Details

• Date: Saturday, January 4
• Time: 8pm Eastern
 Duration: Less than 30 minutes

Join the Fun

We’ll have a live audience at this event… and we’ll all be dressed up all gold and spiffy.

And you can join in on the livestream fun in the comments. We’ll have someone following them.

Escape Room Safety Report 2019

Escape rooms are a broadly safe activity.

In every escape room we played in 2019, we could have freed ourselves from the game in the event of an emergency, except for in 1 game, for only the first 5 minutes.

There is a small minority of companies that makes bad decisions. Thankfully, the owner community has generally recognized the need for safety and adhered to fire code and common sense.

A green exit sign with a person approaching a door.

Background

On January 13, 2019, we published a Basic Safety Evaluation for our escape room reviews.

We wrote, “the most important aspect of escape room safety is that players have the ability to free themselves in the event of an emergency.” That was the premise around which we established our safety rubric.

In that piece, we wrote “during 2019, we will maintain a dataset of basic escape room safety in the games that we play. We will issue a report at the end of the year.”

As we conclude 2019 today, here is the 2019 Basic Safety Report.

Data-Driven Analysis

This is a non-scientific study without random sampling. The dataset represents the games that we played in 2019.

We assigned a safety rating to 161 escape rooms that we played in 2019.*

This safety rating had two parts: Emergency Exit & Physical Restraints.

Emergency Exits

Room Escape Artist Emergency Exit Rating Scale:

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Lock – 79.5% – Players are never locked in at all.
  • [A] Push To Exit – 16.77% – Players are magnetically locked in and may free themselves with the push of a button near the door.
  • [B] Emergency Key – 3.73% – Players may free themselves using a spare key hung near a locked exit door.
  • [F] No Emergency Exit – 0% – Players are trapped within the game and cannot exit unless they win or the door is opened by a gamemaster

In 100% of the escape rooms we played, we could leave the room through an emergency exit at any time.

96% of games met the industry standard of an unlocked exit or a push to exit button (A+ or A rating).

The remaining 6 games had emergency keys available to players next to the exit door.

Physical Restraints

Room Escape Artist Physical Restraints Rating Scale: 

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Physical Restraints – 97.52% – Players are never physically restrained.
  • [A] Push To Release – 0.62% – Players are magnetically restrained and may free themselves with the push of a button within reach of their restraints.
  • [B] Mechanical Release – 1.24% – Players may free themselves using a mechanical release (like a safety switch on handcuffs).
  • [F] No Emergency Release – 0.62% – Players are restrained with no way to release the restraint other than winning the release or gamemaster intervention.

Physical restraints have become passé. Less than 3% of the games we played in 2019 had physical restraints of any kind. We explored the trajectory of this trend globally back in 2017: Escape Room Kink: Q&A On Physical Restraints.

Of the 4 games we played with physical restraints, only 1 game did not provide us a means to release ourselves.

Of note, while this one game absolutely failed, I will add that releasing ourselves from the handcuffs was the first puzzle. We spent mere minutes in handcuffs and as soon as we were out of the handcuffs, the exit door was unlocked. Nevertheless, we still believe that this is intolerable for an escape room in 2019.

Stylized image of handcuffs.

Data Breakdown

Safety RatingCount of Emergency ExitPercent of Emergency ExitCount of Physical RestraintsPercent of Physical Restraints
A+12879.50%15797.52%
A2716.77%10.62%
B63.73%21.24%
F00.00%10.62%
Total161100.00%161100.00%

*Some of the games we played in 2019 were situated such that they didn’t warrant a typical safety rating.

Data Bias

While this is a substantial dataset, it isn’t all-encompassing. We played a lot of escape rooms in 2019, but we didn’t play every escape room. (In fact, in some past years, we’ve played significantly more.) As noted above, this is a non-scientific study without random sampling.

This data is biased by where we played. We played mostly in the United States. During 2019, we played in 14 states, playing the most games in Colorado and Texas. We played in 4 other countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands.

When we travel, we put an emphasis on playing amazing and unusual games. We play escape rooms that are recommended by the community of escape room players. These tend to be escape games that are crafted with thought and care, which encompasses not only the gameplay and aesthetic, but also other aspects of design including safety.

A red sign reads "Exit" glowing in the darkness.

Conclusion

The overwhelming majority of escape rooms are safe for players. In all of 2019, with the exception of a few minutes at the start of one game, we were always able to free ourselves.

Anecdotally, I can add that in most games, we noticed emergency exit signage within the games, and before the game began we were briefed on how to exit the game in the event of an emergency.

We spent a lot of time in escape rooms and we always felt safe.

Announcing: Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides

You may have noticed that the Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides page appeared in our navigation, unannounced, back in October.

This is a new dropdown under “Find a Room” in the main navigation.

We’ve been writing these recommendations for a while, but now they are all collected in one place so that you can easily find them.

Stylized image of a hand holding a compass.

The Structure of Recommendations Guides

Room Escape Artist recommendations guides are divided into sections so that you can find a room that fits your needs. Common categorizations that you’ll find across many of the guides include:

  • Set & Scenery-Driven
  • Puzzle-centric
  • Tech-heavy
  • Newbie-friendly
  • Big Group Games
  • Spooky & Scary
  • Games with Actors

You’ll frequently find games listed under multiple categorizations.

The guides also include a “Market Standouts” section at the top. The games in this section could stand out because they are doing one thing spectacularly or because they are doing a lot of things well. They could be unusual creations or typical escape rooms executed really cleanly. Find them again in the categories to learn a bit more about each standout escape room.

Creating & Updating the Recommendations Guides

When we travel to a new region or city, we try to cover a wide range of games. We aim to visit multiple companies, trying at least one game at each. This helps us understand what the region has to offer and review in context.

We won’t pretend that these guides are comprehensive recommendations lists for each city or region. Due to time and travel constraints, we sometimes don’t get to all the games we would have liked to visit in a region.

Each recommendation guide is labeled with the date we last updated it. It sometimes takes us a few years to return to a city. If you’re looking at an older guide, it’s likely that new companies and new games have opened since we visited and they may not be listed. Refer to our escape room directory to see all the options in a given region.

Add Your Comments

If you visit a city and play something outstanding, please comment on these recommendations guides to let folks know about additional companies and games in a city or region. We encourage you to note a category in your comment, for example that a game is “puzzle-centric.”

Your comments will help traveling players, including us, next time we return to the city or region.

Coming Soon

You’ll see on the Regional Escape Room Recommendations Guides page that there are additional guides coming soon. We’re aiming to publish these and update others in the first part of 2020. Stay tuned.

Other Recommendations Lists

Golden Lock Winners

For additional escape room recommendations, check out past Golden Lock Award winners. This is the Room Escape Artist award for our favorite games we played in a given calendar year.

Tune in for the livestream of the 2019 Golden Lock Award winners on January 4, 2020.

TERPECA Winners

You can also refer to the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award (TERPECA), an attempt to find the best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the rankings of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world.

As we’ve said before, we recommend referring to the top 200 (or so) games on the TERPECA list as a collection of recommendations and ascribing less value to the specific ordinal rankings. There are tons of amazing games to play and many of them are on that list.

Keep Helping Us Find Great Games

Everyone needs help finding great games, even us. We can’t play them all and we’d rather shine a light on the fantastic escape rooms then wave the flag about the mediocre ones.

If you know of something truly amazing and worthy, we always love hearing about it. We keep detailed lists of the games that readers recommend. These are always at the top of our play-list if we end up near them.

Will Smith & Tom Holland Play an Escape Room [Reaction]

Actors Will Smith & Tom Holland visited Escape Hotel to play a game promoting their new movie. I have thoughts.

  1. Spiderman is English 🤯.
  2. We’ve never been to Escape Hotel because they have a reputation for a great lobby and pretty meh games. This video has confirmed the reputation.
  3. Their response to “you know the rules” was hilarious.
  4. Eww – blindfolds.
  5. lol – Tom’s response to being blindfolded.
  6. Will Smith and Tom Holland are incredibly charming. They managed to keep things entertaining by force of personality.
  7. It makes me sad when white-walled middle-of-the-road escape games represent escape rooms at large. Los Angeles has a wealth of wonderful escape rooms that would have been more fun and more visually interesting.
  8. Will, buddy, next time you’re looking for an escape room, have your people give us a shout. We’ll hook you up.
Will Smith & Tom Holland blindfolded by an in-character gamemaster.

Room Escape Divas – 106 – REA & A RECON 2020 Announcement

‘Tis the season for our annual Room Escape Divas appearance.

Room Escape Divas Logo, a cartoon representation of the four hosts.

Room Escape Divas Episode 106 – Room Escape Artist and the Escape Room Industry

Announcing Nick Moran at RECON

If you listen to the episode, or scan the timestamps below, you’ll learn that Nick Moran will be speaking at RECON.

RECON eye & penrose triangle logo.

The brilliant, funny, and talented Nick Moran (please, nobody tell him we said that) was Creative Director of Time Run and Game Director of Sherlock: The Game Is Now, in collaboration with Hartswood Films. Don’t miss out on hearing him speak!

Timestamps

As always, we covered a lot of ground. A few highlights include:

  • 00:00 – An escape room parody rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas performed by the big guy himself, Benito Suppa of Durham Escape Rooms.
  • 06:20 – Our new convention, the Reality Escape Convention (RECON) – including the announcement of Nick Moran as a speaker.
  • 19: 50 – My work on the Create the Escape TV pilot.
  • 24:33 – Behind the scenes of our CBS Sunday Morning TV appearance!
  • 27:22 – Speaking to the media about escape rooms.
  • 33:24 – Looking forward at the escape room industry
  • 37:19 – How we choose to give immediate feedback?
  • 53:34 – What’s your escape room kryptonite? (Building horror teams)
  • 55:16 – The rebrand of the Golden Lock Award
  • 58:23 – Our various escape room injuries
  • 1:00:36 – REA 5 Years Later
  • 1:02:00 – Our 2020 Montreal Tour
  • 1:04:26 – Escape Enthusiast Meetups (our next NYC meetup)
  • 1:05:30 – Starting REA
  • 1:09:30 – David is really good at breaking Manda during her signoff

It’s kind of amazing to me how far we and the Divas have come over the past half decade. They are truly putting out their best content these days. It’s delightful to listen to (and occasionally participate in.)

Finally, my favorite quote of the episode is Errol saying, “Oh… coming to me is not a safe place.”

Analysis – 2019 Top Escape Rooms Project – Enthusiasts’ Choice Award

Congratulations to the Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Award (TERPECA) 2019 winners!

TERPECA’s stated goal is an attempt to find the very best escape rooms in the world.

This is not the same silliness as some of the ad-supported or attempted SEO-boosting click-fests. It is not the utter stupidity that is averaging Yelp or TripAdvisor or Google reviews. This is not a pay-for-placement publication. This is not an aggregator with only a handful of users.

We believe that the project succeeded in generating an immensely useful list of outstanding escape rooms. The winning rooms deserve this recognition.

Top Room Escape Project Enthusiasts' Choice Awards 2019 logo.

At Room Escape Artist, we’re viewing this list as a collection. We hope that traveling escape room players won’t take the ordinal numbers as the gospel.

We’ll expand on these thoughts a bit more in this, our TERPECA Editorial Perspective.

2019 Award Winners

In its second year, the Top Escape Rooms Project expanded in many ways: recruiting more players, involving more countries, and updating the infrastructure to facilitate this.

The most noticeable change from 2018, however, might be the number of winners. The top 50 escape rooms are the 2019 TERPECA winners. We’ve reviewed 19 of the 50 winners; we believe they are all truly deserving.

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Rooms

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Dome – Escape Room Nederland (Bunschoten, Netherlands)
  2. Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore [Paradox Project 2: To Βιβλιοπωλείο] – Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  3. The Man from Beyond – Strange Bird Immersive (Houston, TX, USA)
  4. Cutthroat Cavern – 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  5. The Edison Escape Room – Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  6. Tomb Hunter: Akasha’s Legend [Tomb Hunter: La leyenda de Akasha] – Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  7. Chapter 3: The Morgue – Evil Genius Escape Rooms (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  8. Abduction 3: The Exam – Abduction (Badalona, Spain)
  9. The Lost Treasure of Alexander von Humboldt – The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  10. El Exorcista – No Exit (Athens, Greece)
In-game: lisa, chris, and drew inside of a shark.
Escape My Room

Here are the REA reviews for games we’ve played that ranked 11-50:

*This review is coming soon. Join us at RECON 2020, our escape room convention taking place in Boston in August, and play this game as part of your trip!

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: 3 players in orange flightsuits working at the Operations cabinet.
Image via The Last Defender

Companies

As another change for 2019, the company winners were derived from the escape room votes. The voters did not vote directly for the companies. Companies that created multiple high-ranking escape rooms rose to the top. Because math.

From our vantage point, this worked well.

The top 20 companies are the 2019 TERPECA winners, again, an expansion from last year.

Here are the Top 10:

  1. The Room (Berlin, Germany)
  2. 13th Gate Escape (Baton Rouge, LA, USA)
  3. Escape Barcelona (Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain)
  4. Skurrilum (Hamburg, Germany)
  5. Mad Mansion (Spain)
  6. Palace Games (San Francisco, CA, USA)
  7. Unreal Room Escape (Spain)
  8. Wyjście Awaryjne (Poland)
  9. Paradox Project (Athens, Greece)
  10. Locurio (Seattle, WA, USA)

Here are the REA Reviews for Companies we’ve visited that Ranked 11-20:

For the full list of winners and finalists, visit the TERPECA website.

In-game: an old dusty organ in a study, the walls are adorned with trophy skulls and taxidermy birds.
Image via Skurrilum

Hype

Our Story

When last year’s TERPECA winners were announced, we had played 8 of the top 10 escape rooms, but we hadn’t played #1 (and 10, both from the same company).

This year we took a trip to Hamburg, Germany specifically to play “the 2018 best escape game in the world.” We bought the hype of #1.

On that trip, we played a stellar game. As we wrote in our review, Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman “was a fantastic escape room filled with many dramatic and unusual moments.”

In the year leading up to that trip, however, we’d seen some of these concepts executed better. As much as we tried to check our hype, we’d set our expectations way too high. The game couldn’t live up to its ordinal ranking.

A Word of Advice

Whether you’re planning a trip to The Dome, Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore, or The Man From Beyond, we recommend approaching the game as a truly fantastic escape room, highly recommended by many escape room enthusiasts, rather than as 1 of the top 3 escape rooms in the world.

We’re going to play Paradox Project 2: The Bookstore in 2020. We had a trip to Athens in the works before the award winners were published. We’re beyond excited to play this game. We’re also excited to play the other games in Athens that won awards and ranked in the Top Escape Room Project. We trust that they will all be outstanding escape rooms in their own ways.

Image via Strange Bird Immersive

By the Numbers

I like to dive into data projects, but TERPECA creator Rich Bragg has done an amazing job with that already, looking into every potential data issue, as well slicing, dicing, and delivering stats. Here are some stats he collected:

  • 105 nominators (people who played 200+ rooms) from 15 countries
  • 1,445 individual nominations
  • 507 eligible rooms nominated from 31 countries
  • 11 new countries with at least one nomination: Brazil, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan
  • 229 finalist rooms from 22 countries
  • 370 voters (people who played 50+ rooms) from 23 countries (over five times the number from last year!)
  • 82,865 rooms played combined from all participants
  • 10 countries with their first ever TERPECA winners: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Israel, Poland, Switzerland

About the Project

The Top Escape Rooms Project is an attempt to find the best escape rooms in the world by leveraging the rankings of the most experienced escape room enthusiasts in the world. To learn more, read our call for nominators and voters and livestream announcement, and, of course, the Top Escape Rooms Project website.

What Do You Think of the List?

We think this is a fantastic list. We’re confident that all of the TERPECA winners (top 50) are worth playing. We know the ones we’ve played are absolutely worth a visit.

In fact, as we read through the list, we’re confident that you can find outstanding escape room recommendations past #200.

(There were a few rooms on the nominations list that baffled us as to why they were there, but these did not rise to the top, so other voters were probably confused too.)

The Top Escape Rooms Project delivered a valuable collection of games that are well worth playing.

In-game: Close up shot of a control computer.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Are you Surprised by the Order?

The value is the collection of escape games. The precise ordering has far less value. This is an aggregation of subjective thoughts.

It’s fine if you prefer Tomb of Anubis (50) over The Observatory (41). The Observatory is one of the best humble games we’ve ever seen. Tomb of Anubis is anything but humble. They have different gameplay, scale, intent… and jaw-dropping moments. We’re thrilled we got to play them both. We enjoy experiencing what makes each one special, not whether one is better. If you’re near one of them, you really ought to play.

If you’re surprised by the order, remember that it’s a result of more than just opinions. It’s impacted by how many people have played the game (and when they played it). There are many variables at play here.

The Challenges of Ranking & Time

The challenge of ranking rooms increases with time.

We have more rooms to rank, yes, but also, different metrics to rank them against. Time passed since playing a game is a variable that’s difficult to account for.

The Vanishing Act won a Golden Lock Award in 2016. We played that game almost 4 years ago. It’s hard to rank it against the games we played this fall. Memory is a funny thing. Nostalgia, even more so. It’s difficult to rank memory against present-day reality, especially knowing that our rubric was so different when we created the memory.

Does that take away from The Vanishing Act? No. But it does make it very hard to rank it.

Up Next: The Golden Lock Award

It’s awards season. Although we sat on the advisory board for TERPECA, this award is not produced by Room Escape Artist and is not the same as our Golden Lock Award.

We’ll give out a different award on January 4, 2020. Tune in for the livestream. The Golden Lock Award is the Room Escape Artist award for our favorite rooms we played in any given calendar year.

It is an unranked list of favorites. Some of the games are newer than others, but we played them all in 2019. It’s a different rubric, a different voting system, and a different set of winners. It’s another collection that you can use as a guide.

Will there be overlap? Tune in on January 4th.